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What did you read in high school?


A friend who is in teacher’s college sent me a message asking if I would fill out a survey for one of her classes. What she wanted was for me to think back to high school and try to remember the books I studied from grade 7 through to the end of high school.

What’s interesting is that I have no memory of the books read in grade 7 or 8 at all, and little memory of the books in grades 12 & 13. (Yes, I was in high school when Ontario still had grade 13. It certainly gives readers a better picture of my age!)

So this got me thinking. I can’t figure out why I remember the books we read in grades 9 – 11 books clear as a bell, while I remember what I was reading outside of school for the rest of the yearw.

I was at a private high school and our Shakespeare plays were chosen each year depending what was playing at Stratford. We would read the play, watch the movie version and then go see it live. I know which Shakespeare plays we studied, just not which grade I read it in.

Grade 9 – Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton, Who Has Seen the Wind by W.O. Mitchell, Animal Farm by George Orwell
Grade 10 – The Pearl by John Steinbeck, The Chrysalids by John Wyndham, Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway, Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Grade 11 – The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner, As for Me and My House by Sinclair Ross, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Grade 12 – Tess of the D’Ubervilles by Thomas Hardy, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (can’t remember the rest of the books)
Grade 13/OAC – The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence (can’t remember the rest of the books)

As You Like It
King Lear
The Tempest

So how closely does my high school reading list match up with yours? Do you remember what you read then, or do you have clearer memories of your “non-school reading?”

7 Comments to

“What did you read in high school?”

  1. On January 16th, 2007 at 12:47 am Imani Says:

    The memory of my school assigned books are clearer because they were scheduled, I think. I remember most of the books I read on my own but I can’t match up years and they sort of blur together.

    As far as matches with your list, I also read The Pearl (grade 7), Animal Farm (grade 8), Hamlet & As You Like It (6th form: 12 & 13). I read The Chrysalids and part of Tess of the D’Ubervilles on my own.

    I even remember the books that were assigned to the lower grades of the school I transferred to because, starving for reading material, I read most of those too. I’ll do this on my blog tomorrow. Could be something of a meme.

  2. On January 17th, 2007 at 3:08 pm Anonymous Says:

    I remember reading The Red Badge of Courage in grade 9.
    Other books, but can’t recall in what grade: Midwitch Cuckoos, Lord of the Flies, To Kill A Mocking Bird and a Margaret Atwood book which name I can’t recall at this time.
    And of course the manditory Shakespeare plays: Merchant of Venice, Romeo & Juliette, Hamlet, Twelfth Night.

  3. On January 18th, 2007 at 1:53 am acquisitionist Says:

    The only book on your list that was required reading for me in high school was Lord of the Flies . A few Shakespeare plays aswell. But then again, I’m in Aust so we studied some Australian novelists. I remember reading The Heather Blazing by Colm Toibin. Heart of Darkness by Conrad. The Wife of Martin Guerre by Lewis.

  4. On January 18th, 2007 at 7:31 am MarciNYC Says:

    Since reading this a few days ago, I’ve been trying to remember. What I’ve come up with as ‘required reading’ follows:

    9th Grade – Romeo & Juliet; Edith Hamilton’s Mythology

    10th Grade – The Scarlet Letter, To Kill a Mockingbird (can’t remember anything else)

    11th Grade – The Great Gatsby, The Bell Jar, Moby Dick (and I hated every page!), something by Steinbeck, thinking Grapes of Wrath (which I also loathed)

    12th Grade – Taming of the Shrew, Macbeth (and had to memorise the tomorrow soliloquy which I still remember 20+ years later!), parts of The Canterbury Tales, and then I’m clueless as to the remainder of stuff that year…

    What I do remember clearly is the list from my last lit course in college/uni:

    Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (oh yea, a graphic novel! This started my love for the genre.)

    The Bluest Eye – Toni Morrison (only thing of hers I’ve been able to finish)

    As I Lay Dying – Wm Faulkner (never thought there was a book I’d hate more than Moby Dick – until this)

    The Awakening – Kate Chopin (If you feel the urge to visit Grand Isle, Louisiana – don’t bother.)

    I can’t even remember the ‘recreational’ reading clearly from my high school days, but I lived at the library. Those days, it was more ‘quantity, not quality’ if you know what I mean. I’m much pickier now. 🙂

  5. On January 18th, 2007 at 7:32 am MarciNYC Says:

    Oh – how could I forget The Crucible? That was 9th or 10th grade.

  6. On January 18th, 2007 at 3:55 pm karen! Says:

    Here’s what I can remember…

    Grade 7/8
    No earthly idea

    Grade 9
    (They Cage the Animals at Night by Jennings Michael Burch – I think this one was from the summer reading list though, not assigned during the school year)
    Romeo and Juliet – Shakespeare
    lots of poetry

    Grade 10
    Julius Caesar – Shakespeare
    Night by Elie Wiesel
    Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
    Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
    Animal Farm by George Orwell (either 10th or 11th)
    The Scaret Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (either 10th or 11th)

    Grade 11
    Macbeth – Shakespeare
    Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
    Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
    Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
    Edgar Allen Poe short stories (I think this was in 11th grade)

    Grade 12/OAC
    I was in Germany… the only things I remember reading are The Physicists by Durrenmatt (in German) and Catch 22 by Joseph Heller (in English)

  7. On January 29th, 2007 at 12:56 am poodlerat Says:

    Hey, having done grade 13 doesn’t date you that much – I did it and I’m only 22. But anyway…

    My high school English classes studied only three books every year, one per term, I skipped grade 10 English, and we had no regular grade 12 English class, so it’s pretty easy to remember the nine books I studied in high school:

    Grade 9: Dreamspeaker, Cue for Treason, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

    Grade 11: Not Wanted on the Voyage, Macbeth, and Oedipus Rex.

    OAC: Heart of Darkness, Things Fall Apart, and The Tempest.

    I remember that A Separate Peace and Flowers for Algernon were two of the books we studied in grade 8, and that that was the year I first read The Golden Compass and Pride and Prejudice – they were in our classroom library, and have remained favourites ever since.

    As for Me and My House is on the syllabus for my 20th Century Can Lit course this year.

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